The look of Time Carnage intrigued me from the word go. Quite possibly because it instantly reminded me of one of my favourite ever arcade shooters; TimeSplitters. Ridiculous, frantic action married perfectly with hilarious characters and oodles of customisable elements made it an instant classic. But forgive me for indulging, I know we’re not here for that. So, with trigger fingers at the ready, I ask, can Time Carnage offer a similar experience?
Campaign, Arcade and Challenges. Three perfectly familiar modes for the arcade shooter enthusiast, and Time Carnage supplies all three. Firstly, Arcade mode allows you to set up custom games, unlocking more features as you progress through the Campaign. Next, Challenges, which work as you’d expect. You’ll be thrust into certain scenarios under specific conditions, and can achieve a 1-3 star rating depending how well you perform. Lastly, the Campaign has you blasting you way through four different time zones, each consisting of four stages. It’s all about the action, so bar a quick briefing for each time zone there’s no story to follow here. You can track your stats and game completion from the main menu for the perfectionists out there. The game also offers local multiplayer for two if a mate fancies entering the fray.
In Time Carnage, you defend your position, attempting to fight off five waves of enemies during each stage. You travel from zone to zone via your time travel pad, which you can move around on but do not step off. A shield and health bar are displayed, and if both run to empty it’s game over. You’ll be checkpointed after you clear each wave, which you’ll be grateful for when things really get going. To “launch” into each stage you have to hold down the A button, represented on screen as your dial filling up for take off, something that I found very satisfying as opposed to a simple button press. I can’t really explain why, but I liked it.
The action in Time Carnage looks fairly pretty as you zip around different locations and time zones throughout the campaign, running smoothly on the whole. The game does lag pretty badly during the loading screen, but that doesn’t affect playability. Things also sound good, the effects being perfect for an arcade shooter.
The control scheme is pretty simple. The shoulder buttons (ZL and ZR) are used to fire, L and R swaps between weapons in your respective hand. You can also click down either thumbstick to zoom in. Your pad has four podiums, each for a weapon, meaning you can dual wield and have a choice of two weapons per hand, choosing which weapons you take on your loadout screen. So far so good then. However, it is here, where Time Carnage’s achilles heel lies.
There are two ways to control things in Time Carnage. You can either use both joysticks to look and move, in traditional FPS fashion. Or you can use the gyro sensors in the Joycons and tilt your controller to determine where you look and aim on screen. The first thing you’ll want to do is dial the sensitivity right down, as at the default setting it is near impossible to aim accurately at anything. You can also turn movement off, effectively rooting you to the spot. I played using both control schemes, and also used both at once, however despite sensitivity frustrations I found myself reverting back to traditional sticks. If you use motion controls, unless you are prepared to stand up and move about your position 360 degrees, you can’t cover the whole battlefield well enough to avoid a pasting.
My second major gripe is found with the reload system. You cannot manually reload – you have to place your weapon back on its podium where it will replenish ammo automatically. You can do this by holding down R or L to drop your weapon back onto the reload podium, but I found it easier, no, necessary for survival, to just swap weapons constantly. Wielding just the one weapon in the later levels is suicide. Nicely, you’ll hear a handy reload sound once your weapon has been fully re-filled, and this system means you’ll enjoy having unlimited ammo. However, coupled with the inaccuracy of aiming, the control scheme really starts to creak as the action hots up. I got to the point, during the second zone, where the weapons weren’t reloading fast enough for me to fight off the waves of enemies surrounding. Things got very frustrating and I quickly realised the game was demanding more from the me than it could deliver. Bear in mind, this is after I had to fine tune the sensitivity and all this took place on the “Normal” difficulty.
The last issue that has affected my experience is a smaller one, but if improved, would have reduced frustration caused by the the previous niggles. When waves of enemies approach you have no idea where from, relying only on scanning the battlefield frantically. Sometimes, it feels slightly unfair as baddies would seem to appear from nowhere and start decimating your shield from the opposite side to where you were facing. A radar or some indication on the HUD of where enemies are approaching from would have been appreciated, and not affected the difficulty in any major way.
Despite all this, Time Carnage does offer unlockables after you beat each stage, mostly in the form of new weapons. This means you can choose which weapons to take with you before each loadout, mixing things up a little and adding a very slight tactical edge to proceedings.
At the end of the day, Wales Interactive nearly had a winner on their hands here. I really wanted to love this game. If the gameplay was tighter, Time Carnage could have been the addictive arcade shooter it aspires to be, and you certainly get plenty of content for your money. However, the reload system, coupled with the dodgy controls, really comes back to haunt things when the difficulty ramps up, making things more frustrating than they ought to be.
There is fun to be had, but for some the carnage experienced here will not be quite what they hoped for.
Release date: September 2018
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Massive thanks to: Wales Interactive